Biden’s Scattershot Regulatory Strategy

Ideas and Issues

July 10, 2021

Pearl River    

President Biden in a new executive order seems to be signally to a wide-range of corporations and industries, Congress, and the American people that if he can’t get the job done with a well targeted shot, then he’ll try a scattershot approach and see how many targets he can bring down.  It’s wild and crazy, but I like it!

In the famous words of President Reagan’s director of the OMB, don’t make the mistake of suffering from “premature certainty.”  The seventy-two different pellets Biden fired were shots across the bow.  None of this is said and done.  This executive order was a work order for various federal regulatory agencies to get busy and come up with some regulations to address this array of issues, many of which involve industry and corporate profiteering with adverse impacts on consumers, therefore increase inequality and allow fat cats to profit and purr, while we pay.  The driving argument behind Biden’s order was a full-on fusillade at corporate consolidation.  The administration is essentially saying that even if this doesn’t rise to the level of monopoly, it’s definitely anti-consumer, and needs to end, one way or another.

Most of the headlines replot the battlelines with big tech, the Facebook, Google, and Amazon crew.  The media is in love with this theme and tries to handicap the odds of success given recent court maneuvers and decisions.  The new tech-skeptical head of the FTC was standing by Biden, so the message I would read is that getting real trade enforcement rather than simply a DOJ anti-trust filing might be the strategy de jour.

Read past the headlines, and the appeal of this seeming scattershot has something for everyone.  Here’s a sampler:

  • Making airlines refund baggage fees if bags disappear or are late, as well as charges for wi-fi and other amenities that don’t work in flight.
  • Getting around the hundreds of dollars Apple and others charge to fix your phones so that repair shops and DYIers can do it themselves with better parts and materials.
  • Having bought a pile of hearing aids in our family, I loved the fact that the order includes moving to allow people to buy them over the counter and without going to a certified audiologist to purchase, potentially savings thousands.
  • Expediting importation of prescription drugs more cheaply from Canada and examining why some are so expensive.
  • Giving tech and even service workers a break on professional licensing restrictions and non-compete agreements.
  • The order also targets banks hoarding information about your transactions and data making it hard to move to other banks or follow transactions easily on credit cards and charges – I love that one, too!
  • Restoring net neutrality and broadband competition and price transparency.
  • The order even takes a shot at the monopolization of meat packing appealing to smaller ranchers and farmers and meat lovers everywhere.

And, the list goes on.  Does it solve all of the problems of wage growth and inequity?  Of course not.  Does it matter?  Absolutely.

The Wall Street Journal reports that, “A 2018 study in the Harvard Law Review found that median compensation for workers would be as much as $10,000 higher if markets were less concentrated. A University of Chicago paper in 2016 found that the decline in workers’ share of corporate income is largely tied to increasing corporate consolidation.”

Undoubtedly, this order will attract as many enemies as friends, but let the shootout begin.